September 21, 2021 09:44

State Lawmakers Across the Country Seek Greater Police Transparency and Accountability

As Congress remains deadlocked over police reform, lawmakers in more than 20 states have considered bills this year to make the disciplinary records of police officers public or to share them with other agencies, a push that comes amid high-profile deaths at the hands of law enforcement, reports the Christian Science Monitor. A bill signed in Utah in March provides legal immunity to law enforcement agencies that share background information about former employees with other agencies looking to hire. In North Carolina, lawmakers want to create a confidential database from which law enforcement agencies in the state can track all disciplinary actions to prevent officers from hiding past problems when looking for a new job.

Maryland has gone further, approving the release of records related to formal misconduct complaints. In addition, according to the Associated Press, California, New York, and Hawaii, have all taken steps to require public disclosure of police records in relation to multiple types of misconduct, use of force complaints, and infractions, while in New Jersey last year state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, without waiting for legislation, ordered local and state police to release the names and summaries of disciplinary records of officers who had been fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days. Opponents say the release of such records could harm the reputations of officers with only minor infractions or even put them in danger. They also argue that disciplinary actions are part of personnel records, which are exempt from state open records laws.

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